Monday, August 24, 2015

Eat Drink SF: Too Much of a Good Thing

By Emma Krasov, photography by Yuri Krasov
 
‘Too much of a good thing is wonderful!’ These words are usually attributed to Mae West. Knowing the sultry 1920s movie star’s inclinations, perhaps the old gal meant sex. Here, I take the liberty to apply this optimistic saying to Eat Drink SF – San Francisco’s premier annual food, wine, and spirits festival that celebrates the Bay Area’s world-class chefs and restaurants every August at the Festival pavilion at Fort Mason Center. 
Founded by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, Eat Drink SF is a food lover’s paradise. It features the bounty of California flavors in a sequence of food- and wine- themed events, each of them – one of a kind experiences enjoyed by the locals and city visitors on San Francisco Bay’s waterfront.

This reporter attended a Saturday Afternoon Grand Tasting last week – just one of many wonderful events – which presented seasonal dishes from more than 30 restaurants; over 70 different beers, wines, and cocktails; cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs Ryan Scott (Top Chef, Market & Rye) and Brian Boitano (Olympic Champion, cookbook author), Tony Gemignani (World Pizza Champion, Tony’s Pizza Napoletana), Michael Tusk (Cotogna, Quince) and Chris Marchino (Cotogna) emceed by Liam Mayclem, KCBS’s Foodie Chap; San Francisco Wine School Beverage Classroom; the Whole Foods Cheese Monger Cave, and even lawn games and snacks in the Backyard Bites zone.

But first thing first – Hudson Valley Foie Gras made a memorable appearance with dearly beloved duck products – foie gras tourchon with huckleberry jam, and duck barbacoa on duck fat fried chip.

Tony Gemignani – the World Pizza Champion (and my fellow countryman from an obscure East Bay location – SO proud of him!) treated the adoring public to his signature Tony’s Pizza Napoletana meatballs made of veal, pork, beef and pancetta in marinara sauce.

Dennis Leung of Dragon Beaux (Chef Zhou-Hui Yu) presented delicious stuffed steamed buns creatively shaped and finished to look like large shiitake mushrooms.   

Michael Rotondo of Parallel 37 came up with the most unusual and delightful Hamachi taco topped with cilantro and seaweed.

Matthew Dolan of Twenty Five Lusk served fresh and juicy Adriatic figs with bright green skin and deep red flesh, sprinkled with crumbled feta, fennel, and toasted sesame seeds.

Roberth Sundell of Pläj – the authentic Scandinavian restaurant known for its heavenly seafood – prepared a salmon and shrimp salad topped with salmon roe (no less!) but by the photoshoot time the entire supply of the Northern delicacy was gone!

Chris Ricketts of the tropical-themed Palm House prepared a refreshing summer melon salad with bacon bits, microgreens, and ginger.

Chris Seyersdahl of Precita Park Café made a wonderful melon gazpacho with stone fruit crudités, summer herbs, and crispy lardo bits.

Mark Gordon of Terzo created summer farro salad: Umbrian farro, heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, feta, pomegranate molasses, spicy zhoug, olive oil, and salt.

Tony Cervone of Souvla prepared a finger-licking dish of Superior Farms whole lamb – Greek-style – with lemon, olive oil dressing and minted green yogurt.

Mike Ward of The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards presented house-made sausage with whole-grain mustard.

Celebrity chef Joanne Weir (James Beard Award-winning cookbook author and a host of PBS series) of Copita Tequileria y Comida made tuna crudo tostaditas with cucumber, avocado, chile de arbol and peanut salsa.

Whole Foods Cheese Monger Cave presented four cheeses paired with cider: Buf – a ball of creamy buffalo milk mozzarella from grass-fed buffalos raised in the Colombian Andes; 12-month raw Manchego – hard Spanish sheep’s milk salty and nutty variety; Herve Mons Camembert made from cow’s milk, with earthy mushroomy flavors, and Cabot Catamount Hills cheddar – Italian-style, with notes of Swiss and parmesan.

Speaking of cider, estate grown Gowans Cider made from juicy Mendocino apples was incredibly delicious in all its varieties.

Exiting the Festival Pavilion after “too much of a good thing,” I couldn’t abstain from a short stop at a makeshift Tattoo Shop. That’s where I got my “Holy Trinity” food-inspired tattoo of onion, celery, and carrot everyone keeps asking me about.
It wouldn’t be possible to try and mention all of the outstandingly delicious dishes and drinks presented at just one of the tasting events of Eat Drink SF, but visiting the participating restaurants soon and often would surely help.  
Saturday afternoon featured restaurants included 1300 on Fillmore, Aveline, Bacon Bacon, Bon Marché Brasserie & Bar, Cadence, Ca’Momi Enoteca, CatHead’s BBQ, Copita Tequileria y Comida, Dragon Beaux, Emporio Rulli, Heritage Eats, Hillside Supper Club, Hops & Hominy, Huxley, ICHI Sushi, Luce, Mr. Tipples Recording Studio, Nick’s Cove, Palm House, Parallel 37, Pizzeria Delfina, Pläj, Precita Park Cafe, Ristobar, Scala’s Bistro, Souvla, Terzo, The Ramen Bar, The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards, Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, Twenty Five Lusk, and Zero Zero.
Featured beverages included: beer from Allagash Brewing Company, Bear Republic Brewing Company, Gowan’s Heirloom Cider, Hoegaarden, Leffe Blonde, Leffe Brune, North Coast Brewing Company, San Francisco Brewers Guild, Stella Artois, Stella Artois Cidre, Stone Brewing Company, Trumer Pils; wine from Ca’ Momi Napa Valley, Domaine de Canton, Ironstone Vineyard, Jeremy Wine Co., J.Lohr Vineyards and Wines, Lodi Vintners, McCay Cellars, Meadowcroft Wines, Oak Farm Vineyards, Paso Robles Wine Country, Peltier Winery, Treana and Hope Family Wines, Viñedos Aurora; spirits from Anchor Old Tom, BarSol Pisco, Brugal Rum, Carpano Antica Formula, Cutty Sark Blended, Scotch Whisky, Deep Eddy Vodka, Disaronno Originale, Fernet Branca, Highland Park Single, Malt Scotch Whisky, Junipero Gin, Larceny Bourbon, Luxardo, No.3 London Dry Gin, Old Forester Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky, PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur, Sipsmith Gin, Snow Leopard Vodka, Spirit Works Distillery,Tap 357 Canadian Maple Rye Whisky, Templeton Rye, The Black Grouse, The King’s Ginger, Woodford Reserve, Zaya Rum;  non-alcoholic beverages from FloWater, KeVita™ Sparkling Probiotic Drink, Mr. Espresso, Purity Organics, Starbucks Coffee Company.
Eat Drink SF charity beneficiaries are Golden Gate Restaurant Association Scholarship Foundation established to encourage and provide assistance for individuals who wish to further their education in pursuit of careers in the hospitality industry, and The Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA) – dedicated to cultivating a sustainable food system through the operation of the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and its educational programs.
Creative consulting for the highly successful Eat Drink SF events was provided by AF&Co – a co-founding company, which widely popularized the concept of the San Francisco food festival over the years, and attracted thousands of visitors from all regions of the country as well as from abroad to this most significant city event. More information at:  www.eatdrink-sf.com. #EDSF.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Wine Country Walking Tours Company in Healdsburg Offers Holiday Tours

Photography by Yuri Krasov
 

Wine Country Walking Tours in Healdsburg is a small family business owned and operated by Harold and Kirsten Jones. 

A tour around Healdsburg starts at 11 a.m. in downtown, and includes tastings and food and wine pairing sessions at various wineries, restaurants, and food/wine retailers. It lasts up to four hours.


The tour might include visits to Costeaux French Bakery, Russian River Tea Company, Stark Wine Company, Gustafson Family Vineyards, Sunglier Cellars, El Farolito Restaurant, or other similar venues.

 

With the approaching of the holiday season, the company offers Holidays in Healdsburg
tours.

For more information and reservations call 707-758-4725 or visit www.winecountrywalkingtours.com. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

2015: Year of Russia in Monaco

By Emma Krasov, photography by Yuri Krasov
 
Were it Kremlin’s conspiracy to soften the image of Russia in Europe, or a lucky strike of some marketing genius, but the idea of a year-long celebration of Russian cultural heritage in the “rich man’s world” fell on fertile ground. According to The Monaco Times article, dedicated to this year’s record numbers of tourists flocking to the second smallest and most densely populated country in the world, Russian visitors closely follow the tourism avalanches descending from France, Italy, and the U.S.A.

Hailing from Mother Russia, and perhaps, having some obscure monarchist bone in my body, I wasn’t immune to the lure of this Russian bias of the tiny Principality in the South of Europe, and so it had me at the announcement that Valery Gergiev will be conducting a traditional summer concert at the courtyard of the Prince’s Palace. (The symphonic music concerts started at the Palace in 1959, and remain open to the public and extremely popular with the visitors and the Monegasque alike).

I was ready to travel… right after completing some urgent work projects and clearing some family matters. When I finally glanced at air prices in the last week of June I thought I experienced a small earthquake, which wouldn’t be a surprise in our seismic zone of San Francisco Bay Area, but there were no reports from the USGS in the news...

The more I looked at the ever growing ticket prices offered by different airlines the better I was becoming acquainted with the thought of shelling out all that dough if I really wanted to see the art exhibition “From Chagall to Malevich,” a Ballet of Monte Carlo show at Salle Garnier in the Casino of Monte Carlo, and attend an Imperial Dinner (also part of the Year of Russia in Monaco).

On an excruciatingly hot mid-summer day (which happened to be one of many, or rather all similarly steamy days during my short visit) I boarded a Heli Air Monaco chopper at the Nice airport along with other Monaco-bound passengers, who like me, picked a seven-minute pleasure flight over an open-end car ride along a smoldering trafficked highway.    

It didn’t take me long to settle at the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel. With a sigh of relief I immersed myself in a refreshing sandy-bottom lagoon, before ordering a champagne cocktail at the trendy Blue Gin bar with starry ceiling, glowing blue sculptures, and white leather banquettes – both the lagoon and the bar on the premises of the five-star hotel.

At dusk, rejuvenated and excited, I was donning my petite robe noir and heading to the Imperial Dinner at Monte-Carlo Beach Hotel. It started with high-class entertainment by The Soloists of Monte-Carlo – soprano Elena Bakanova and tenor Yuri Kisin who masterfully performed arias from Russian operas in the magical blue light reflected in the large swimming pool of the hotel.

The six-course all-organic-ingredients dinner was put together by the Michelin-star chef, Paolo Sari who heads the hotel’s restaurant Elsa. Salad vegetables from the Chef’s garden, red shrimp from San Remo, smoked salmon risotto Tsar Nicolas with champagne Crystal, local mullet fish with green pea puree and baby vegetables, desert Pavlova, coffee and petit fours were served on white table cloth with long votive candles and Russian Standard vodka bottles as centerpieces on every table.

With the exquisite food and wine, music and light, the dinner felt positively imperial even though no Emperor was present...

His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco honored with his presence one of the key events of the Year of Russia program – maestro Gergiev’s concert, where the highly-acclaimed Russian conductor lead the Philharmonic Orchestra of Monte Carlo performing Aleksandr Borodin’s “Polovetsian Dances” from the opera “Prince Igor,” and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony #5.

Dressed up to the best of my abilities, arriving for the concert at the Prince’s Palace on the top of a hill in Monaco-Ville overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, I was temporarily blinded by the sea of diamonds worn by mostly nubile, mostly Russian-speaking golden-haired women accompanied by silver-haired men.

Every step of the way in Monte Carlo I ran into my compatriots. A tour of the historical exhibition in the Palace library, “The Grimaldis and the Romanovs” exploring 150 years of the relationships between the two royal families, was led by a young Russian woman, married to a French citizen ”via internet,” and now commuting to work from Nice.

At the “From Chagall to Malevich, the revolution of the avant-garde” exhibition in the contemporary glass-and-steel building of the Grimaldi Forum, I participated in spontaneous Russian-language discussions about Russian constructivism, suprematism, cubo-futurism, and neo-primitivism, all the while admiring the rarely seen masterpieces created by the great Russian artists between 1905 and 1930. 

Afterwards, having dinner on the open terrace of the posh Zelo’s restaurant right there, at the top floor of the Grimaldi Forum, I had a chance to watch not only elaborate fireworks on occasion of the 10th anniversary of Prince Albert II’s rule, but also the arrival of some celebrity guests – Sylvester Stallone and Julian Lennon to be exact – seated a couple of tables away from me. I didn’t want to eavesdrop, but I could probably safely bet on the Russian descent of a bevy of young blond women who kept them company.         

At Le Meridien Beach Plaza Hotel, where I enjoyed a lavish Sunday champagne brunch, I was cordially greeted in Russian by a front desk attendant, then by the Russian-speaking food and beverage manager, and finally spent some quality time with a Russian hotel guest, who like me, took a lesson on healthy cocktails prepared with seasonal fruit and berries, offered by the hotel’s Head Bartender.
A large encampment of Russian grandmothers with their grandchildren occupied the private beach of Le Meridien, and a lively crowd of young Russian mothers were chatting loudly while pushing baby strollers along the seaside Princess Grace Avenue.

To see the Ballets Russes photo exhibition in the Atrium of the Casino, presenting life-size cutouts of the Russian dancers from the Diaghilev’s famous turn-of-the-century troupe, I came early for the Ballet of Monte Carlo performance of “Creations” showcasing the work of three contemporary choreographers – “Fatalistic Visions Predominate (Tales Absurd)” by Natalia Horecna, “True and False Unicorn” by Jeroen Verbruggen, and “Summer’s Winter Shadow” by Pontus Lidberg.

I could hardly contain my delight with the masterfully staged and hauntingly beautiful one-act ballets, and joining me in loud applause and screams of approval were some young ladies sitting one row behind me and chatting in French – until they had to exchange a couple of secret observations – in Russian.
 

During a tour of Europe’s most gorgeous and revered Casino, inaugurated in 1863, I heard Russian speech in every room, in front of every Black Jack, European- or American roulette table, underneath every marvelous painting, sculpture, and crystal chandelier…    

Before my visit was over, I’ve learned that some of the most lucrative businesses (like the Monaco soccer team), most expensive mansions, and most luxurious yachts off the beautiful shore of Monte-Carlo have owners with Russian names, and that the idea of running The Year of Russia in Monaco came up during a meeting between the Russian President and the Prince of Monaco back in 2013. A total of one hundred and forty events were planned for the Year of Russia, including twenty-six concerts, four ballets and three operas – to emphasize the two countries’ shared cultural legacies and the historic ties between them. The year-long program also features other spheres of collaboration between Monaco and Russia, such as science, education, sport, food and fashion.

The concept of a whole year dedicated to the culture of another country is a first for the Principality, and a vivid reminder of its openness and cultural awareness. Each month of 2015 is packed with art events, conferences, and culinary presentations at various hotels and restaurants of the Société des Bains de Mer – a 150 year-old institution shaping the dreamily glamorous and elegant image of Monte-Carlo through a wide range of its properties and services built around the brand’s core values – excellence, generosity, audacity, creativity, and passion. More information about the Year of Russia and opportunities to travel to Monaco at: www.visitmonaco.com.